For over 20 years, ALTA has continued to thrive thanks to the work of our committed volunteers and the passion of our founder and CEO, Paula Lucie-Smith. This was clearly evident at ALTA’s annual tutors meeting, held on Saturday 25 June where over 100 active and newly trained volunteers came together to chart the way forward into another successful academic year. Present amidst the volunteers was ALTA’s patron Zalayhar Hassanali and Professor Ian Robertson who gave a presentation on Creole English and the Adult Literacy Student.
Professor Robertson is well known in academia for his research in the field of linguistics. Guyanese by birth, he is the former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the UWI St Augustine Campus and a former lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics. He gave a lengthy but incredibly interesting presentation, which looked at the value of teaching adult learners in Creole English versus Standard English. He also looked at the intricacies of Creole English and gave many entertaining examples of both phonetic and grammar rules which tutors should keep in mind when teaching Trinidadian adults to read and write. He left the audience thinking about the importance of understanding the nature of language – both the language which is being taught, as well as any languages students bring into the classroom – in order to teach effectively.
It was extremely inspiring and promising for ALTA’s future to see so many long standing and new tutors attend a meeting on a Saturday morning – many coming from as far as Point Fortin. The feedback we received during the meeting is testament to the unwavering commitment which our volunteer tutors have to the Association. Undoubtedly, without this dedication ALTA would not be where it is today and so we take this opportunity to say a big thank you to all our volunteers – both past and present.
The Citizen Security Programme (CSP) is an IDB funded initiative run under the auspices of the Ministry of National Security which aims to significantly impact the instance of violent crime in known “hot spots” across Trinidad and Tobago by contracting the expertise of NGOs to deliver impactful programmes targeted to at-risk communities. As ALTA’s engagement with CSP comes to an end, we look back at the process:
Both reading and spelling require you to connect letters to speech sounds and to develop a visual memory of the letters in words. However when you read, you see the letters and have to work out what the word is. You do the reverse when you spell – you know what word you want to write and have to work out the letters.
Thus reading and spelling are different skills. Reading uses the skill of recognition, while spelling requires recall. You can compare it to phone numbers. Spelling is similar to when you try to remember a phone number, where you have to recall each number in its right position. Reading is when you check your phone log and recognise the number you were trying to remember. Since reading and spelling require different skills, you can be a good reader but a poor speller. The ALTA spelling programme, which is geared toward our students who have completed Level 2 of the programme, incorporates and expands on the spelling strategies and rules taught in ALTA literacy programme.
Below we have a contribution from one of our students, Maureen who is a member of our Spelling Programme at St George’s College in Barataria.
The initial reason for my interest in ALTA was as a form of support for my brother but then I thought that I could benefit from the programme as well. The areas I needed help in were spelling and reading for understanding. I started at Level 2 and progressed to the Spelling Programme which was most helpful to me as it pointed to the issues pertaining to my spelling problems. With an emphasis on phonics and the understanding of the composition of the English language the programme taught me how to apply the rules required to enable me to spell any word. Thus my spelling improved greatly.
Throughout my academic life I struggled with feelings of inferiority because of my shortcomings. My participation in the ALTA programme has been a rich and rewarding experience. It has afforded me the opportunity to build self confidence. I can say that learning has become an enjoyable experience rather than one of necessity. I attribute my positive experience to the patience, willingness and respect shown by the tutors regardless of our level.
Attending these classes has also given me the privilege of meeting new people and making friends. Our class was united in their efforts to help and support each other in achieving our goals. Whatever obstacles you need to overcome in order to better yourself; do it. You are never too old and it is not too late to accomplish your life’s goals. The ALTA programme is the ideal foundation as a first step to understanding what is needed for self improvement. It will put you on the path to realizing your potential.
ALTA starts the Spelling Programme in October after new student registration in September. This gives potential spelling students who are new to ALTA the opportunity to spend four weeks in Level 2 to check that Spelling Programme is their best ALTA match.
ALTA’s Youth Lit programme is now in its eighth year! The programme which is done in partnership with NALIS aims to provide effective literacy instruction to students within primary or secondary schools who have literacy challenges which are not being addressed.
Youth Lit 2015-16 began last November with 112 students at ten libraries around the country. The number increased in 2016 with ten new students enrolling in the program. By June 2016, the large majority of students received certificates of excellence, while some will return to Youth Lit in order to continue the improvement of their literacy skills.
Certificates of Excellence which were donated by Mario’s Pizzeria entitle the recipient to a complimentary mini pizza. Students were awarded a certificate after a specific goal was achieved, for example; attendance or punctuality. For the third year, former ALTA tutor Karese Toby who teaches at St Augustine Girls’ High School, was able to get Sixth Form students to volunteer in Terms 1 and 2 at Arima and Chaguanas Youth Lit classes.
The dates for Youth Lit registration 2016 are Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th September, with classes beginning the week of October 3rd 2016.
On May 25th, 2016 non-profit organisations benefited from Microsoft’s Technology for Good Day, a joint initiative between the global technology giant, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA).
ALTA has benefitted from free software from Microsoft since 2000 and the upgrade to Office 365 was welcomed as the package came with integrated online Outlook, SharePoint and One Drive storage of a terabyte per user. Our upgrade was implemented with assistance from Chuck Stuart of Icons Company and has assisted us greatly with the coordinating and running of our free literacy classes, as well as the ALTA Online project. Office 365 is not only used by ALTA in-house staff but also provides access to our Regional Coordinators and special project team members.
Technology has become increasingly important for non-profits in Trinidad and Tobago and facilitates the social transformation these organisations desire to make a reality. The Technology for Good Day was designed to provide these organisations with the technological tools and the know-how needed to augment their social impact. At the event it was announced that non-profits with charitable status would receive access to Microsoft Office 365, to enable productivity anywhere and anytime. The donation was made possible through a global programme that provides qualifying non-profits and nongovernmental organisations with the software free of charge.
For Microsoft, Technology for Good Day was an opportunity to continue its support of non-profit organisations that contribute to the development of Trinidad and Tobago. For ALTA it was great exposure and an opportunity to network and assist NGO’s around the country.
Last year, as a part of the anti-stigma campaign a new partnership was developed between ALTA and the Digicel TT Pro League. The pairing was long in coming, as Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene has long acknowledged that low literacy affects a significant number of athletes within the sport of football.
This year the ALTA posse was present at TT Pro League matches in May with their ALTA placards to spread literacy on the football field. National Coordinator extraordinaire Lystra Hazarie worked with ALTA Arima’s Carolyn Walker-Hepburn to rally ALTA tutors from all regions to attend the various football matches around the country. At the matches the ‘ALTA cheerleaders’ left packages with information about our literacy programme with the management of the different teams and even delivered a personalized ALTA cheer at halftime!
ALTA tutors thoroughly enjoyed the experience as they also had the opportunity to interact with the crowd and spread the message about ALTA and literacy! They also gave those interested more information about our Open Day which ran from June 6-17, 2016 and our upcoming student registration which is on Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 September, 2016.
‘A new look at life and learning’ is how one trainee described ALTA’s Tutor Training Course this year. The six-day intensive course which took place in Belmont, Arima, San Fernando and Grenada saw over 100 volunteers being trained. This number was the largest we have had in the past three years. The training sessions saw both new and seasoned trainers and presenters taking on more challenging sessions usually done by ALTA founder and CEO, Paula Lucie Smith. “We are well on our way to having a training team for each location so that in the future trainers and facilitators do not need to be at all three locations during training” remarked Paula. Five new facilitators were added to the training team and twelve tutors trained as coordinators – a major increase when compared to four in 2014 and two in 2015.
For the second year running, we also trained volunteers in Grenada. Unlike last year, when we had a trainer based in Grenada working with the trainees, this year we had to rely solely on skype. Trainer and regional coordinator Judith Affoo worked with the group from Grenada for the entire training period. The five new tutors have already been assisting in the ALTA class at Mt Zion Community Library, St George’s and will take over full responsibility from September. .
All in all, TTC 2016 was educational, exciting and intense; if you won’t take it from us, see what the participants and trainers had to say about it below:
“The ALTA tutor training course certainly exceeded our expectations. We knew it was a successful programme, but having undergone the training, we were able to appreciate its foundation in sound linguistic principles. Its approach and methods are incisive, and we are particularly impressed that it considers adult learners in their Caribbean context. “
“It was a challenge completing the programme via Skype…however, our facilitator, Judith Affoo, competently guided us and ensured that the experience was warm, inviting, informative, and worthwhile. Her dedication to assisting us is reflective of ALTA’s relentless commitment to improving literacy rates in the region.”
“It has been a valuable learning experience which I enjoyed a lot. I have learned quite a lot of things which I either did not know before or took for granted. I have gained new and valuable skills”
“The course was very detailed. Although it was intense at times the facilitators were very accommodating and knowledgeable on the subject matter which greatly aided my understanding.”
“It was very instructive, a bit challenging at times but overall rewarding and enjoyable”
“I enjoyed the positive reinforcement from facilitators, the small group activities and the level of interaction”
“This course was interesting, enjoyable and educational for me. I have learned a lot of new things with regard to teaching adults”
“It was extremely intense understandably so but enjoyable and edifying”
Dominic Ambrose (First time facilitator)
“I have always found the tutor training environment to be illuminating, inspiring and in this case, refreshing. The material to be delivered and the guidance required of a facilitator appeared to be par for the course. The major challenge was the day to day and even minute by minute “in-stream” adjustments to the schedule. That required a major tweaking of my modus operandi. Fortunately I partnered with an experienced facilitator, who was very accommodating.”
Lennox Austin (Trainee Coordinator)
“ALTA TTC 2016 acted as a refresher for me only that it lasted six days rather than the customary one day of training. This created a heightened sense of awareness of all things ALTA from its philosophy and methodology to the finer details in content delivery. I even had to learn to be prepared to step up to the plate as on Day 3, one of the facilitators in my grouping was absent. I had to contribute in the assessment of some of the tutors on that day and my opinion was sought on the other days as well. All in all my experience was priceless as no amount of money can buy you the feeling I had of contributing to moulding the future tutors to carry on the work according to the gospel of ALTA.